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VOL. 23, NO. 3September 19, 1997


Columbia Cooks Up Hot Music

New Student Group Works to Promote Campus Bands

One of the creators of Columbia Music Presents, Seth Unger, CC'97, right, and this year's leader, Doug Marvin, CC'00, heat up the tunes on campus. Record Photo by Amy Callahan.

By Amy Callahan

In dorm rooms and student lounges across campus, Columbians have been plugging in guitars and amps, making up lyrics and forming their own rock bands. This has been happening for generations—though previously without the amps, as in the case of former Carman resident Art Garfunkel. But now, with the efforts of a new student club—Columbia Music Presents—these campus bands have promoter, producer and event organizer all in one.

  Formed last year by Seth Unger, CC'97, and Karen Elliot, BC'98, the nonprofit student activity group has taken off. Last year Columbia Music Presents handled more than 30 Columbia bands and produced a CD. And this year—during Club Day on College Walk—more than 150 students signed up to participate.

  Some bands, such as Project Nim and Farina, claim faithful followings. The names of other bands seem to give a nod to the musicians' classic education at Columbia: songs by Augean Stables and Marlowe's Lie are on the CD. Still other bands reflect the University's tradition of leadership in electronic music, which undergraduates learn in Music Hum. One particularly innovative band, The Freight Elevator Quartet, features the music of a digiridoo, cello, drum machine and another unnamed instrument someone described as a "crazy electronic box that makes noises." Some of these bands have found success: one called Jonathan Fire*Eater, for example, recently signed a major contract with Dreamworks. Such potential is what the new club hopes to nurture, in addition to adding some spark to the undergraduate social scene.

  Unger developed the idea for Columbia Music Presents last year when lamenting the lack of rock music venues in the Morningside Heights neighborhood. He said students—musicians and otherwise—needed a little local night life: "You know Columbia, people could be doing their homework for the rest of their lives."

  So he got support from the College, with the help of Kathleen Moss, student activities coordinator, and Richard Welch, director of student activities. Soon, Columbia Music Presents was putting on shows in Faculty House and even in clubs in the Village. The crowning achievement was making the Columbia Rocks 1997 CD, more than 200 copies of which have been sold in the bookstore, through the club's website (www.columbia.edu/cu/cmp), and at other campus locations.
The CD produced by the new student organization, Columbia Music Presents, is available in the bookstore.

  Of the songs on the CD, Unger says, "Not all of them are great—but with a lot of them there's creative stuff happening that should be out there."

  Unger discovered one band when the group's practice session awakened him from a nap in his dorm room. Down the hall in the lounge, Unger found the members of Nine Days Wonder. Two of their songs are now on Columbia Rocks 1997.

  Not all those involved in Columbia Music Presents are musicians, but all are fans of the growing Columbia music scene.

  "We have a lot of people involved who don't play," explained Doug Marvin, CC'00, who this year will lead Columbia Music Presents. As self-described groupies, they arrange and set up the shows.

  Unger, now out of school and looking for a job in the entertainment industry, remains active in the Columbia music scene and encourages others to get involved: "Anyone who's willing to work can be part of it."

  Columbia Music Presents will put on its first show of the year in Faculty House sometime in early October.